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Blood test hope for children with cancer

A SIMPLE blood test could help more young children survive an aggressive and often deadly form of cancer, a new study suggests.

An international team of scientists has found that "biomarkers" in the blood identify a hard-to-treat form of neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in children aged five or under, accounting for 15% of deaths from the disease.

They believe a test can be created which would allow doctors to identify children with the high-risk form of the disease earlier, allowing them to be offered experimental treatments that may have a higher chance of success than chemotherapy.


Study leader Professor Sue Burchill, of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said: "This not only gives them the best chance of living longer, but will help speed up the development of much-needed new treatments for this group of children."

Neuroblastoma affects 100 children every year in the UK. The survival rate has risen from around 40% in the 1980s to 60% but it remains hard to treat and early identification is vital.

The researchers found a substance in the blood that can help identify what is known as a "stage four" neuroblastoma, which does not respond well to chemotherapy and has very low survival rates.

They hope the simple test could identify up to 20% of young neuroblastoma sufferers with this ultra high-risk form of the disease, who rarely survive for more than two years following diagnosis.